Natural Equality and Civil Society

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Natural Equality and Civil Society

According to John Locke in his "Second Treatise of Government", natural equality is an essential component of the state of nature; the ‘state of nature' being one of peace, tranquility, and equality, where there is no common power guided by reason. However, the lack of common power also supplies an inconvenience for the state of nature– the aptitude to fall into a state of war with no means to escape it. To avoid this "inconvenience", Locke finds it a necessity to form civil society ruled by a common authority of law. For a such government to preserve its legitimacy, the transition into civil society must maintain some degree of equality. The origination of property, the introduction of money, and furthermore the practice of slavery are three reasons certain aspects of natural equality are sacrificed in the conversion to civil society.

To assess the extent of loss of natural equality, we must first come to understand what Locke's definition of equality is:

A state of equality, wherein all the power and jurisdiction is reciprocal, no one having more than another; there being nothing more evident, than that creatures of the same species and rank, promiscuously born to all the same advantages of nature, and the use of the same faculties, should be equal one amongst another without subordination or subjection.. . . [pg.8]

When one knows Locke's definition of equality, the mere existence of property subtracts from our natural equality. Let us examine the origins of property. Locke suggests the origin of property is of God, pointing to the 115th Psalm verse 16 of the Old Testament, ". . .God, as king David says, ‘. . .has given the earth to the children of men; given i...

... middle of paper ... transition to civil society. Members of civil society, give legitimacy to the governing power of common rule or law by consenting to it. For a government to sustain this legitimacy, it need only continue to protect these consenting participants from the constant threat of a prolonged state of war, sustaining our right to enjoy our property within it. Furthermore, the inequality that is intrinsic in monetary based civil society, does not undermine the validity of government because the purpose of consenting to common law is to protects one's valuables; life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness (which to Locke means possessions). Therefore, there is no condition under which the participants of any civil society imaginable by Locke, can allow the common law to protect the existence of property, money or slavery, and maintain all the virtues of natural equality.

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